Hunt Season Summary

The 2009-2010 foxhunting season ended with a very nice hunt on March 27, and I’m just now getting around to summarizing it here, not because my life has been filled with more exciting activities, but just because I’ve been lazy. (I still haven’t gotten around to cleaning the mud off my boots from that last hunt).

My memory’s not what it used to be, so I could be wrong. But mentally looking back at this past season, I can’t think of anything really outstanding to set it apart from other seasons. Crossbo continued to be awesome, but that’s not news any more.

One of the unpleasant aspects of this season was the crappy weather, and the number of cancelled hunts as a result. In fact, I thought I was going to set a record this season for fewest number of hunts. But then I reviewed the calendar and last year’s wrapup, and realized that this year’s count of 18 hunts was just barely better than last year’s 17. But it’s still at the low end compared to previous seasons. Maybe I can just hope that the downward trend has been reversed and the numbers are going back up.

There were a few times when personal complications (not able to get out of work, horse losing a shoe, etc.) kept me from hunting. But the biggest reason for that low number was weather-related cancellations. At least there was some variety in the bad weather. Sometimes it was lots of heavy rain, leaving the ground to muddy to ride on. Sometimes it was extended cold weather, freezing the ground so hard that it was hazardous to horses and hounds (and any riders unlucky enough to fall). Sometimes it was heavy snow. Add it all up, and it was a bad season, but just barely missed being the worst in recent history.

One highlight of this season was my continued experimentation with GPS tracking. After testing different GPS apps for the iPhone, I settled on MotionX. And after a few tracks that were lost due to bad satellite reception, I learned that the position of the phone could make a difference. After figuring that out, I got good results tracking the last few hunts of this season, with the exception of one.

One nice thing about the MotionX app is its easy connection to Facebook. At the end of a hunt, it just takes a couple of minutes to upload the track from the phone to the MotionX server, which automatically provides a Facebook link. So before I even get home, people can see where I’ve been.

Not surprisingly, MotionX doesn’t keep tracks around forever. The ones stored on their server expire after a while (I can’t remember whether it’s 30 days or 90). So, for posterity, and for the benefit of those who are not on Facebook, the tracks are also posted on the site I set up when I started playing with GPS last year. So if you’re curious, check it out.

One track that’s missing is the one from Wednesday, March 17. After noticing a top speed of just under 30 mph on a couple of hunts, I decided I needed to break 30. But that might require a little bit of “cheating”, since I wasn’t sure if the field was going to achieve that speed. I saw my chance that Wednesday, when I’d stopped with someone else to open a gate, and the field had moved on ahead of us. Seeing plenty of distance for acceleration, I dropped Crossbo’s reins. After blowing past the field master (who fortunately just smiled because she had a good sense of humor and knew exactly what I was doing), it took me another quarter-mile to get Crossbo pulled up.

When I checked the GPS track at the end of the day, I had only recorded the first few seconds of the hunt. I must have accidentally touched Pause right after Start, and not noticed that before slipping the phone in my pocket. So we have no track for 3/17, and we don’t know how fast I closed that gap.

I finally did manage to break 30 mph, with a recorded top speed of 31.0 mph on the last hunt, March 27. And that may have been an “honest” speed. I’m not sure at what point in the hunt I reached it. There was one point where I pulled the same stunt as before, dropping back to give myself a gap to close. But that didn’t feel quite as fast as when I did it before. And those big loops at the end of the track were a good run where we were moving at a pretty good clip for a while, so it’s possible that we could have hit 31 mph at some point on that run.

Another interesting item from this season’s hunt was the continuation of my “Horse’s Ear View” photographs. Last spring, when I started riding around home after hunt season ended, I decided the world looks better when viewed through a horse’s ears, and pulled out my phone/camera to get a picture of the world viewed that way, and uploaded it to Facebook.

I continued that theme through the summer, trying to get at least one picture through Crossbo’s ears each time I rode. When I started hunting in the fall, I quit doing that, mainly because it would be too much hassle to take the gloves off (since the iphone won’t work with gloved fingers), switch the phone from GPS to camera mode, get a picture, switch back to GPS mode, safely stash the camera back in my pocket, and put the glove back on. I’ve lost unimportant items like a crop (totally unnecessary on the day I dropped it) and a flask cap (no problem as long as you have good friends willing to help prevent anything from being wasted) when things suddenly got exciting.

But towards the end of the season, it occurred to me that a lot of the views in the hunt field were better than any I had captured at home. So I started carrying my Fuji camera, which eliminated all the phone complications, and which I wouldn’t mind losing as much as the phone.

I never dropped the camera, and I did manage to get some pictures which are included in my Horse’s Ear View album on Facebook.

And that wraps up the 2009-2010 hunt season.

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